Adoption charity decides web is safe way to attract parents

Tania Mason

British Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) is preparing to show short films of children on the internet in a bid to attract prospective parents who might never have considered adopting before.

The charity consulted extensively before deciding to proceed with the technology, and concluded that the online service would pose no more risk to the children than the existing practice of featuring their photographs in the charity's monthly magazine, Be My Family.

The site, which will go live in 2007, is expected to comprise an open section, where some photos of children will be featured, and a subscriber section that will contain films of children talking about themselves.

Felicity Collier, chief executive of BAAF, said the charity had done so much work calculating whether going online was a risk worth taking that it was now producing a good practice guide about featuring children on websites, which other organisations could use.

John Carr, internet safety adviser at NCH, said the risks must be weighed against potential benefits to the child. "Will some weird guy get off on the pictures?" he said. "Probably, but if you let paedophiles dictate everything you do, you would never let kids out of the house.

"The crucial thing is there is nothing on the website that can identify the physical location of the child. Nothing in life is ever completely safe, but I think that the risk here is very, very small."

A feasibility study conducted by BAAF last year suggested that using the internet would help to attract more parents to adoption and fostering.

Collier cautiously estimates that 100 more children will be found families each year through the website, about 30 per cent more than are found now.

The Finding Families for Children project has been made possible by a Big Lottery Fund grant of £360,000, one of two large grants awarded to BAAF last week. It was also chosen as the beneficiary of this year's October Club fundraising dinner, which raised about £500,000 from City institutions last Wednesday night.

The combined sum will make a huge difference to the charity, whose total income last year was approximately £5m.

The October Club donation will contribute to BAAF's Opening Doors project, which aims to develop new ways of finding more permanent families for disabled children. One such method will involve the children making videos of themselves, although these will not be posted online.

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